How to photograph orchids  

NB172332 5D Mark IV Kew Orchids SmallOrchid festivals provide opportunities for flower photography at a time of year when it can be difficult to shoot outdoors. There are a number of orchid festivals taking place around the UK, though the largest one can typically be found at Kew Gardens in London.

One key consideration is that the orchids are indoors and under glass, which can cut out a lot of light. So ideally try and go along on a day when the light levels are quite good as this will help you significantly. And remember that it's much hotter inside that out, so have enough space in the back to take your outside jacket, plus a lens cloth to help de-mist any fogged up lenses.

There are two distinctly different ways of shooting: using available light or with flash. Flash makes the ambient light less critical, but you need to understand how to best use flash for macro subjects. Ambient light makes the technique easier, but will require you to use high enough ISO settings to make sure that you can shoot handheld without camera shake spoiling the shot and that you are shooting at an aperture that will give you some depth of field.

If using a telephoto zoom lens for a cluster of flowers, go for an aperture in the range of f8 to f11; if shooting with a macro lens then you will need smaller apertures than this, typically around f16 to f22.

Best equipment
The most effective combination is a macro lens with macro flash, as was used with the white and pink orchid below. Macro flashguns provide nice, even lighting and are easier to use when shooting on your own rather than using off-camera flashguns.

Handholding rules
If handholding with macro remember that you need to go above the normal handholding rule 1/focal length of lens as the magnifications that you are working at also magnify the camera shake that you are getting. We recommend aiming for 2/focal length for this type of shot.

NB172273 5D Mark IV Kew Orchids Small copy


Orange orchids

Taken with EOS 5D Mark IV, EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens at 200mm, 1/200 second at f14, 3200 ISO. Shot handheld.

Av mode used, with exposure compensation of -2/3rds applied. White balance was set to Auto. No flash – the orchids were shot using only available light, but a a high enough ISO to allow for a fast enough shutter speed for handheld work.








NB172309 5D Mark IV Kew Orchid


White and pink orchid

For this shot the camera was set to Auto ISO, so that the camera could set the value needed for the light level for that particular environment, as the ambient light levels vary significantly throughout the glasshouse.

Taken with EOS 5D Mark IV, EF 100mm f2.8 USM lens, 1/200 second at f22, 400 ISO with Canon Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX. Shot handheld.

Manual mode used, but with ISO set to Auto to adjust for ambient light levels and to balance with the flash. No exposure or flash compensation applied. White balance on auto. The flash has the advantage of darkening the background which, for the white flower, really makes the striking petals stand out.